Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate!

In honor of the holiday, let me share a favorite work by a favorite composer, sung by one of my vocal heroes. Without further ado, here is the first part of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs: Easter, sung by Sir Thomas Allen.  The text is by George Herbert (1593–1633).



1. Easter – from Herbert’s Easter

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.
Sing his praise without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand,
that thou likewise with him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part with all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name, who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is the best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song pleasant and long;
Or since all musick is but three parts vied and multiplied.
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

2. I Got Me Flowers – from the second half of Easter

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East.
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Blessings to all my readers, and thanks for your support!




The Minnesota Orchestra Conquers Carnegie Hall

This week, the Minnesota Orchestra, along with superstar violinist Hilary Hahn, played at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Osmo Vänskä… and days later it’s still difficult to get my head around all that happened and what it all means.  As a teaser, let me free-associate a few words: brilliant, shattering, thrill-ride, fire, partnership, joy, pride, triumph.

And now, for a slightly longer account.

Please note that this is not exactly a review (for real reviews, please see those in the New York Times and New York Classical Review), but rather a sense of the occasion and some thoughts for what it all means.  Enjoy! Continue reading


Ten years ago this May, I had the privilege of attending a remarkable concert at Orchestra Hall led by Osmo Vänskä. The “big” work of the program was Sibelius’s First Symphony—a work that has come to have many layers of meaning for us in Minnesota. Curiously enough, it will get a rousing performance in New York later this week, when the Minnesota Orchestra makes its triumphal return to Carnegie Hall.

But there was another item on that program that has remained lodged in the memories of both my wife and I: Kalevi Aho’s Flute Concerto. It was a relatively new work in 2006, having been premiered only a few years earlier; Osmo made a recording of the work with Finland’s Lahti Symphony Orchestra in 2005 for the Swedish label BIS.

One of the driving inspirations of the Concerto was the emotion Aho felt when it seemed that the death of his beloved dog, Emma, was imminent. The work was full of profound emotions, masked by a surface attempt to remain calm—an experience all of us who have dealt with grief can surely understand. It wasn’t maudlin, but filled with moments that were lyric, meditative, and delicate. A romantic work wrapped in layers of modernism, and one that took a deep look into the curious relationships we have with our families—pets included.

Aho’s Concerto is particularly in my mind today, as we have just had to put our 15 year-old cat Zeke to sleep.

And both my wife and I are astonished at how hard it is hitting us. Continue reading